Zimbabwe Election Support Network officers arrested
29 October 2009
By Violet Gonda
Two more members of civil society were arrested this week as the crackdown on perceived ‘opponents’ of the State continues.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network staff members, Thulani Ndhlovu and Ndodhana Ndhlovu, were arrested on Wednesday evening in Hwange’s Dete area, for conducting a public outreach workshop allegedly without police clearance. ZESN Board Chairman Tinoziva Bere denied they had conducted an illegal meeting, saying the group had received permission from the local traditional leadership and the district administrator’s office. He said Ndodhana was subsequently released but Thulani is still in police custody and is being charged with contravening a section of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
Bere told SW Radio Africa that a sad pattern is forming in Zimbabwe and warned that the crackdown which had been ‘reluctantly suspended, as a result of the formation of the inclusive government, was now being resumed.
He said: “It is a tragedy because the path that the GNU was walking was difficult, unpleasant and frustrating, but at least they were moving in a positive direction and one would have expected that they would have overcome their challenges - instead of beginning to reverse the clock and starting to crackdown on free voices.”
Several MDC employees have been under attack since the party announced its disengagement from ZANU PF on October 16th. The latest incident is the abduction of Pascal Gwezere, the MDC’s Transport Manager. The MDC said he was abducted from his home in Harare on Tuesday night by six armed men. Media reports say Gwezere was on Wednesday dumped at his home, badly beaten and traumatised.
Two civic leaders from the National Association of Non Governmental Organisation (NANGO) were arrested and charged last weekend, ostensibly under POSA, for holding a “political meeting” in the form of the NGO Directors’ Summer School. NANGO says this was in spite of the fact that the internal Directors’ Summer School is a meeting it convenes annually to give NGO leaders the space to generate and share ideas and collective courses of action.
Bere, who is also a human rights lawyer, said POSA is an unjust law. He asked: “Why should the police require to give permission to people to hold a meeting in a country which is liberated and free, and the meeting is for peaceful processes?”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday a United Nations investigator was detained and deported by state security agents, even though he had been personally invited by the Prime Minister. The deportation took place as the SADC troika was also arriving in the country for crisis talks with the political parties.
The MDC has called for fresh elections if SADC fails to break the political deadlock in the country. But the Zimbabwe Election Support Network believes that the conditions on the ground right now are far from suitable for the holding of free and fair elections. The ZESN chairman said there is still no free media, no major reforms and the violence is continuing.
“I don’t think Zimbabwe is ready and the partisan nature in which police act say to us it can only get worse and there will not be a free and fair election under the current conditions. We needed more reforms, we needed more restoration of institutions so that they are more independent,” said Bere.
He said it’s shameful that any party could sign to an agreement and one year on, fails to deliver. “It’s a shame that Zimbabweans are led by people who are so dishonest,” blasted the ZESN chairman.